Something happened at Meaford Hall on Tuesday evening that doesn't happen often enough in our community. Members of council, municipal staff, the Chamber of Commerce, and the community itself gathered to celebrate a significant achievement.
On Thursday of last week the Municipality of Meaford was presented with an award from the Economic Developers Council of Ontario (EDCO). The award was in recognition of the fine work done by members of our municipality in the creation of the Dragons' Den Meaford event.
While receiving such an award is an outstanding achievement in and of itself, what makes this sort of recognition exceptionally special is that it is the end product of the contributions of a wide range of Meaford's residents and organizations.
Meaford's CAO in speaking to those gathered at the celebration, said that in more than 30 years in the field of economic development, he has been part of many award winning projects, but never in all that time had he been part of something that was recognized with such a prestigious award as the EDCO.
That was a significant statement by Miele.
When he was hired by the municipality to fill the position of CAO, our council highlighted the fact that Miele had an impressive resume in the field of economic development, and the hope was that he would bring some of that magic to Meaford to help stimulate some badly needed economic development.
Since his arrival we have seen many initiatives including the Meaford Economic Development Strategy (MEDS) task force and Dragons' Den that have shone the spotlight on the potential that exists in Meaford. These initiatives have not been top down directives, but inclusive projects that have enlisted the help of a broad range of residents.
The MEDS project for example, which was driven by resident and volunteer Michael Anderson, saw more than 25 average citizens dedicate a lot of time and effort into assessing where Meaford is at the moment, and developing strategies for going forward.
Dragons' Den too was a large collective effort, so as was pointed out on Tuesday evening, the EDCO award was not just for the municipality, or the Chamber, but truly a reflection of community effort.
Dragons' Den would never have happened were it not for the sponsors who provided funding, or for the long hours of hard work by members of the Chamber of Commerce, or the fabulous facility and staff of Meaford Hall, or the creative energy of the contestants who were brave enough to bring their business concepts before the Dragons.
It would also not have been seen as a success were it not for the hundreds of Meaford residents who filled Meaford Hall in each of the last two years to witness the event.
While we might have a tendency to at times become lost in negativity, the success of an initiative such as Dragons' Den Meaford should serve as a reminder that when our community bands together we can achieve great things.
Perhaps in a few years we will look back at the moment this award was presented and we will see it as having been a turning point for our community. A time when we realized that working together really works.
The change certainly does seem to be taking place. For the first time in a long time, all but one of the storefronts in the downtown core are filled with active businesses. The one empty storefront has recently been sold, and should be filled in the near future. The new council has continued to keep economic development at the forefront of their radar, and many have high hopes for this newly elected and demographically diverse council. And in the last couple of years we haven't been seeing the rapid turnover of municipal staff, particularly at the management level.
All of these things might just be signs that better times are ahead for our community.
Congratulations to all of the residents of Meaford, the Chamber of Commerce, municipal staff, and local businesses for the achievements recognized in the receipt of the EDCO award.
Now let's keep moving forward in that positive direction.